Thinking about breast reconstruction
Deciding whether to have breast reconstruction or when to have it will depend on your individual situation. Only you, with your doctor and any family or friends you choose to involve, can decide what feels best and is right for you.
If you think you might want to have breast reconstruction bacause you have had, or are about to have, breast surgery due to breast cancer, it's a good idea to mention this before you have a mastectomy. You don’t have to make a definite decision at this stage, but it will help the surgeon to plan your initial surgery.
Women have different reasons for choosing or declining breast reconstruction surgery. You may choose it so that you won’t need to wear a breast form (prosthesis/false breast), or you may feel that breast reconstruction will help you to feel more confident or feminine. Alternatively you may decide that you feel comfortable wearing a breast form and that you don’t want to go through the additional surgery and recovery that breast reconstruction involves.
Some women plan to have reconstructive surgery after their treatment but change their minds as they find that the loss of a breast doesn’t trouble them as much they thought it would. Sometimes women decide years after breast cancer surgery that they feel ready to have an operation to make a new breast.
If you decide to have a breast reconstruction, you’ll need to think about the timing of the surgery. It may be possible to have it at the same time as your mastectomy so that you will have a breast shape immediately after the operation. Or you may prefer to finish your cancer treatment first before going ahead with reconstruction.
Other factors may also affect your decisions about reconstruction, such as your general health, your relationships, commitments and priorities.
It’s important to have realistic expectations about the possible results of breast reconstruction surgery. It can’t give you a perfect breast. A reconstructed breast won’t have any sensation and may not ‘move’ as well as your natural breast. Although your surgeon will aim to make the new breast as good a match as possible to your other breast, there may be differences in the size, shape or position of the two breasts. In general most women are pleased with the results of their surgery, but some women are disappointed.
Breast reconstruction usually involves having two or more operations over a period of 6-12 months to get the best appearance for your new breast.
You may find it reassuring to know that breast reconstruction doesn’t increase the chance of the cancer coming back. And it doesn’t interfere with your doctors’ ability to detect the cancer if it comes back in the breast area.
It may be helpful to think about the possible advantages and disadvantages of breast reconstruction before making a decision about whether to have it done.
You won’t have to wear an external breast form (prosthesis).
When wearing clothes (including underwear or a swimming costume), your appearance will be similar to before your mastectomy.
You will have a cleavage.
Breast reconstruction can help to restore self-confidence and feelings of femininity, attractiveness and sexuality.
You’ll spend more time in hospital and extra time at home for your recovery. Breast reconstruction usually involves more than one operation. Most women need to have two or more operations over a year or more to get a good match with their other breast.
As with all operations, problems may occur.
You may not be pleased with the result.
You may need to have an operation on your other breast to reduce or increase its size, or to lift it so that both breasts are even.
You are unlikely to have much sensation in the new breast.